Editorial: Thailand's caves and the valor of the rescue efforts

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted7/7/2018 2:00 PM
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  • The body of Saman Gunan, a former Thai navy SEAL who died during the mission to rescue a dozen young soccer players and their coach, is carried during a ceremony in northern Thailand Friday.

    The body of Saman Gunan, a former Thai navy SEAL who died during the mission to rescue a dozen young soccer players and their coach, is carried during a ceremony in northern Thailand Friday. Associated Press Photo

The Tham Luang Nang Non caves in northern Thailand are more than 8,000 miles and another way of life away from Chicago's suburbs.

But the death Thursday of Petty Officer Saman Gunan, a volunteer in the treacherous effort to rescue a dozen young soccer players and their coach, reminds us how delicately close humanity and its heroes are tied.

Reports from The Associated Press tell us Saman, a former Thai navy SEAL, lost consciousness from apparent lack of air while underwater swimming through the long cave system. He had finished placing oxygen canisters for other rescue divers along the five-hour route to the stranded group.

"The determination and dedication of Saman will always be in all of our frogmen hearts," other retired SEALs said in a memorial message. "Today Saman rests. We will complete this mission, just as Saman intended."

With movies and video games fostering detachment, it's possible sometimes to lose touch with the dangers emergency responders and rescue workers face on their missions, but it is hazardous duty. They risk their lives for us.

We felt the heartache back home only a little more than a month ago when Chicago Fire Department diver Juan Bucio died while trying to rescue a man who apparently had jumped into the Chicago River.

Many rescue workers have chosen it as their life's work. We remember Des Plaines firefighter Richard Coombs who died in 1962 while trying to save three men trapped in a sewer during a methane gas leak.

Some people become rescuers not by profession, but by a combination of happenstance and courage. We remember Karen Wessel of Arlington Heights who died in 2014 after saving a 9-year-old boy from drowning in a Wisconsin lake.

We remember Elgin Fire Captain Stanley Balsis and pipeman Michael Whalen who died in 1974 trying to save a teenager from drowning in the boil under a dam on the Fox River. And we remember Palatine volunteer firefighters Warren Ahlgrim, Richard Freeman and John Wilson who died fighting a fire in the basement of a Ben Franklin store.

And there are so many others to remember and to thank -- police who serve to protect by putting themselves in harm's way, all emergency responders who put their lives on the line.

They do what they do with devotion, bravery and selfless concern for others. They don't do it for recognition or gratitude.

Let's give it to them anyway.

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